The role of construction in development and economic growth: challenges and opportunities for developing and emerging economies

September 16th, 2013

Thank you to Dr. Tabaral Ballal for inviting me to the recent international workshop at the University of Reading on the roles of construction in development and economic growth.

The starting point for the workshop was the notion that the construction industry plays a pivotal role in the economic growth and development of nations. Economic activities are highly dependent on a strong construction presence for the provision of investment opportunities, job creation and development of infrastructure in all types of economies. In developing and emerging economies, this reliance is all the more significant.

The objective of the workshop was to create a forum to discuss and debate issues concerning developing and emerging economies. We hope this discussion and debate can continue beyond the two days of the workshop. This potentially will be in the form of collaborative research (on issues that matter to communities in developing countries) between Practical Action and the University of Reading’s School of Construction Management and Engineering.

However, this discussion does not need to be restricted to Practical Action and the School of Construction Management and Engineering, it could include anyone who has an interest in this area of development.

Dr. Tabarak Ballal

Dr. Tabarak Ballal talking at the workshop that took place on September 5th and 6th 2013.

The workshop attendees included contractors, consultants, the research community, government agencies, NGOs, Manufacturers and suppliers.

One approach that we have been discussing within Practical Action is a technical advisory service that brings diverse expertise together from a multiple base of organisations, institutions, consultants and companies thus providing a platform to exchange technical information and discuss significant issues that arise.
Some of you that have long memories may know that there was something similar called the Building Advisory Service Information Network which included a number of organisations such as GTZ (now GIZ), SKAT, Development Alternatives and ITDG (now Practical Action) and others. Could something like this work in the current development climate? Yours thoughts on this are very welcome.

Neil Noble at the University of Reading

Neil Noble presenting at the workshop.

The workshop gave me an opportunity to look at some of the work Practical Action has undertaken relating to construction and shelter. One of these topics that seemed to be of interest was the use for stabilised soil blocks and their building standards.
While building standards have been developed in Zimbabwe and Kenya for the appropriate use of stabilised soil blocks there does not seem to be the equivalent in other countries, during the workshop we were discussing difficulty in obtaining similar standards for Sudan.

These changes in standards were introduced to enable low-income communities gain access to decent and affordable housing rather than having standards that act as a barriers to better housing for the poor.



An image taken from Emerging Partnership for Implementing Sustainable Building Standards

An image taken from Emerging Partnership for Implementing Sustainable Building Standards

4 responses to “The role of construction in development and economic growth: challenges and opportunities for developing and emerging economies”

  1. David Farquharson Says:

    Most books on alternative building methods have plans that will allow the builder to comply with local building regulations. This normally involves creating a support structure using code specified materials and then using earth or whatever for the walls. Not a great solution as it adds costs to the building – but it does put a roofs over people’s heads while their government moves like a snail on sleeping pills.

    I am not sure that some countries have building inspectors let alone a building code. I helped build in Mocambique a few years ago after the civil war and never saw an inspector – or a building code. Timbuktu seems to be entirely constructed out of mud brick and as far as I know there are no building standards in Mali either.

    The best solution, where there is no building authority, is to get as many electrical, architect, civil engineer of master builder certificates as you can so that the building will be passed when standards are introduced.

  2. Jorja Says:

    Hmm is anyone else having problems with the images on this blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Neil Philip Noble Says:

    If just tried this in FireFox and Chrome and the images looks ok. Maybe there was a temporary glitch.

  4. check your Says:

    except that there are an awful lot of multi-unit buildings in areas that are now zoned as exclusively residential. the irony of portland’s restrictive zoning is that it does not even reflect the pre-existing architectural landscape of the city.

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